Twins

Chapter 11

TWINS

CHAPTER 11

 

It was literally by the dawn's early light that Peggy's Dream passed Fort McHenry and entered Baltimore Harbor. The activity on deck was frantic, as the ship prepared to dock. Peggy was dressed in the dress she had made. Her other belongings were neatly packed in the chest with Jack's clothes.

 

Soon after docking, Jack and Tommy came to the cabin with a large chest. "Sorry, Aggie, but I'm afraid that we are going to have to sneak you off the ship. Grab some blankets for padding and climb in." She could tell by their eyes that there was no choice, so she gracefully gave in. Before closing the lid, Tommy gave her a bottle of water and Jack gave her a kiss. After a few minutes of silence, she heard some crew members come in and then felt herself being picked up. The language they used to describe the Captain's belongings was quite colorful, and she had to bite her tongue to keep from laughing.

 

It wasn't long after they set the trunk down that it was moving again. She then heard Tommy's voice, "Ma'am, we are in a covered wagon. I'm going to open up and get you out." Soon she was sitting on the front seat of the wagon with Jack on one side and Tommy on the other.

 

"Welcome to Baltimore, Aggie. I'm afraid I am not a good tour guide. I was only here for a week, and that was ten years ago. At least I can still find my way around. I am not letting you stay in a hotel; you are, after all, my wife. I now own a beautiful home, complete with servants. My grandfather left it to me, and there was provision in his will to keep on the staff until my return."

 

Soon they entered a private drive that led to a forbidding old home. Jack halted the team in front and got down from the wagon. The trio did not look at all like the wealthy owners of this mansion. When the butler answered the door he looked on them with disgust. "Deliveries in the rear." he said, with a glance at the wagon, and closed the door in their faces.

 

"I never did like Furgison's attitude. I had a devil of a time teaching him to let Shadow in. Damned pain in the ... Opps, sorry, Aggie." He smiled at her and knocked again. Before Furgison could say a single word he was held in the air by the lapels and Jack gave him a not too gentle shake. "Furgison, I compliment you on your devotion to my home. However, in the future I would like to use my front door. Now please inform the staff I have arrived. Prepare the master room for myself, the adjoining room for Master Thomas and the guest room across the hall for my wife."

 

Furgison did well to control his shock on all counts; he returned a quite proper, "Yes, sir, Captain Miles. It is pleasant to have you home at last, sir."

 

"Don't lay it on too thick, old boy. We will wait in the library. Master Billy will be joining us for lunch. Also, if there is any mail from the Navy Department, I should like to see it immediately."

 

"Yes, sir." Furgison closed the door behind them, as they walked down the hall to the library.

 

Tommy's eyes grew huge as he took in the luxury of the house. He pulled on Peggy's arm and whispered, "You ever seen anything like this before? I had no idea the Capt'n was so rich. He always acted like a good man."

 

Jack stiffened as he overheard the words. Peggy did not miss it. "Tommy, a man is not what money makes him. A man is what he is, how he lives and treats others, that is what makes a man. Your Captain is a good man, and don't you ever forget that."

 

Jack opened a door and stood aside for them to enter. There was a glow of respect in his eyes, as he met Aggie's. They entered the library, a large room with a window on the south wall to allow light in all day. Over the fireplace was a world map with shipping routes drawn and small ships mounted on pins placed along the routes. The books were a collection of naval history, business, world geography, navigation and cheap novels. Jack picked up one of the cheap novels. "My grandmother loved these. I'm sorry I never knew her. After she died, Grandpa would read them aloud to share them with her spirit. I always thought he really liked them, too, but he would have died rather than admit it."

 

Jack then walked to the map. "Just like the day he died. Look, Tommy, he had us just off Mobile. Exactly where we were." There was a shakiness to his voice, and a tear ran down his cheek that he turned and wiped away. "Sorry, this is harder than I expected. I did love my Grandpa." He then sank down into an overstuffed chair by the fireplace.

 

Peggy sat in the chair opposite Jack. Tommy wandered around the room, looking at the models of the Benford fleet. He counted twelve ships. "Capt'n, all these ships belong to you?"

 

"Those and more. Last count I had was twenty-seven merchantmen, not to mention several sloops for bay trade and a yacht for pleasure. My Grandfather has built a very large business. In fact, one of the largest outside of New York."

 

"Jeez," was all Tommy could reply.

 

A tall black man with white hair entered. "Mas'ta, Jack? Here be the letters you asked about."

 

Jack jumped up and ran to the old man and hugged him tightly. "Jubell, you old goat. I told you before, I don't like that Mas'ta talk. Your a free man now; no one is your master. My God, man, how are you?"

 

"Doing as well as can be expected. Do wish I had word from Ashbrooke. Mitty been out of touch a long time now." Jubell handed Jack the letters. "Who are our guests, 'Mas'ta Jack'?"

 

"Cut that out, or I'll flog ya. This is my wife, Agatha, and my cabin boy, Tommy." Jubell bowed, as Jack introduced them. "Did you say 'wife'? What about Miss Peggy you always write'n your Grandpa about."

 

Peggy stiffened, and Jack could feel the tension, as it crackled in the air. "Jubell, that is a long and complicated story. Your Grandson should be here soon; he will give you all the details. Why don't you plan to go with him to visit Mitty? He is taking a sloop down as soon as the ship is secured."

 

"Thank you, Jack. I would like that right much." Jubell shook Jack's hand and quietly left the room.

 

Jack sat down again and read through the letters, muttering occasionally. When he finished reading, he looked up, and Peggy saw the frustration in his eyes. "I have to report to the Navy Department in Washington. They want to give me a medal of some sort, and then there is the business of decommissioning our ships back to the Benford Shipping Company. I am ordered there with all possible haste. I suppose I could leave on the afternoon train. Damn, I wanted to spend some time here."

 

A plan was forming in Peggy's mind. "Jack, why don't you and Tommy go on from Washington to Ashbrooke. You can visit and take care of your 'personal business' and return with Shadow. I really will not mind being alone in this wonderful house. Besides, I must get a new wardrobe, since mine was lost in Texas."

 

"Are you sure you don't want me to return before going to Virginia?" Jack asked with some concern.

 

"Most certainly not. I might even take the time for a short trip to my family. Then return to settle our business. How long do you think you will be gone?"

 

"Knowing how the government works, it could be several weeks before I can get to Ashbrooke. Then, I suppose, a couple of weeks to visit there and determine what needs to be done. I suppose six weeks is probably a realistic time."

 

"Fine, then let's say we meet here in two months." Peggy was making her plans very quickly. In one week she needed to be at Ashbrooke to explain things and set her trap. 'Oh, yes,' she thought, 'this could work out very well. Shadow strolled into the study. He was dressed in his Navy uniform. "Old Furgison must be getting senile, He actually opened the front door and asked me in. Must be this uniform, but it was damn tiring saluting everything in sight riding up here."

 

Tommy spoke up, "Capt'n picked up that fancy doorman and shook him good, and told him to let you right in."

 

"So the old goat hasn't changed." Shadow turned as he heard the door open again.

 

"Boy, I hope I ain't the old goat you're talking about in that tone, 'cause I'd hate to put such a fine lookin' grandson over my knee."

 

"Jubell! Oh, it is so good to see you again." Shadow hugged his grandfather.

 

"Billy, I'm glad you're home. Mas'ta Jack says I can go with you to see your Mama. When can we leave?"

 

"Five, maybe six days." Shadow looked to Jack. "Unless there is anything else you need done, Capt'n."

 

"No, Shadow, as a matter of fact, Tommy and I will be leaving after lunch for the Capitol. I shall meet you at Ashbrooke and return here in six weeks to two months. Will Peggy's Dream be out of dry dock by then?"

 

"Timing should be about right. As a matter of fact, the crew was askin' for some time to visit their homes. A two month leave will make them a very happy crew."

 

After Jack and Tommy left that afternoon, Peggy was sitting in the library, deep in loneliness and depression. Jack's departure had been rushed and she was given a much more affectionate hug from Tommy than from Jack. Jack's last words to her were, "Remember, two months and I will be back to show you that my real love is Peggy."

 

She was almost looking forward to tonight, so she go to bed and have a good cry. Jubell found her there. "Mrs. Miles, Ma'am?"

 

"Oh, yes Jubell, what can I do for you?" she asked, looking into the kind old face.

 

"I thought you might like to go to the dress makers. Billy told me you lost your trunks and needed new clothes. I took the liberty of having the buggy hitched up. I'm ready to leave whenever you are."

 

Peggy's spirits picked up some; then she remembered she had no money. "I can't, Jubell, it will take a day for the bank to arrange a transfer from my family account."

 

A broad white smile filled Jubell's black face. "Ma'am, there are household funds. I been in charge of them since Mr. Benford passed on, and there is plenty; you see the bank keeps sendin' it, whether I need it or not. As long as you don't need more than six thousand dollars worth of clothes, I got it covered."

 

"Jubell, I know where Mitty and Shadow get their generosity!"

 

Jubell's eyes focused on her with an intense concentration. "Well, I'll be. He don't know, does he?"

 

"Who doesn't know what?" she asked innocently, not fooling Jubell a second.

 

"How come the Capt'n callin' you Aggie, not Peggy?" Jubell sat down to hear this story.

 

"That is who he married, Agatha P. Johnson. That's me." She still tried to bull her way through this.

 

"Yup, P. as in Peggy, Johnson as in stepdaughter to the Capt'n's Mama's second husband, and the girl the Capt'n has wanted to marry since the day he met her." Jubell smiled, as her face fell in amazement.

 

"Jubell, how did you know? This is the first time we have met." Peggy wanted to know what gave her away.

 

"You said you know how generous my Mitty is. That means you have lived around her. How many beautiful raven haired twenty year olds can be at Ashbrooke Manor?"

 

"I see. Well I'll have to be more careful. Right now Shadow and you are the only ones that know. I want Jack to love me not this image of me, 'his Peggy'. I have a plan, but now that you know, will you help me?"

 

"Missy, let's get you to the dressmaker and you tell old Jubell just what is going on."

 

The afternoon was a whirlwind of shops. In each, Peggy insisted her purchases be delivered in no more than two days. Between shops, Peggy explained the situation to Jubell. As they left the last shop, Peggy said, "Jubell, please take me to the best gunsmith you know. I need to make a purchase or two." Jubell led the way into a shop only two doors down. The man in the shop at first thought a woman buying a gun was an easy sale and easy profit. Jubell smiled as Peggy put him straight. "I need three firearms; a small cartridge firing pocket pistol, a colt cartridge six shot 45 caliber, and one of the new Springfield lever action, also a 45 caliber, five boxes of shells." He pulled two cheap pistols out of the case and presented them to her. She took one glance, turned to Jubell and said, "Come along, Jubell, this man seems to think I'm a fool, and a fool and her money will soon be parted."

 

"Ma'am, no disrespect intended,." the man said quickly. "I merely thought you would want something easy to use." He then handed her the type of hand gun she wanted. "Better, do you have a range in back?" She picked up the gun to feel its balance. "This isn't balanced, have you got anything else." He was beginning to be really impressed by this woman. He went to a cabinet and unlocked it. He handed her a new shining colt 45 revolver. "Just got this in. Newest model, they have big hopes for sales in the west." He then showed her to the door in the back. She loaded the gun with shells he offered. She held the gun at her side. A can caught her eye. With a smooth motion that astonished both Jubell and the man, she emptied the gun. The can moved in an amazing dance. She didn't miss once. "Ma'am, I ain't even seen a man able to do any better than that." He went into the shop and returned with a small pocket gun and a rifle. Peggy approved both after firing them. Back in the shop she picked out a holster for the Colt and then asked if he had any balanced throwing knives. He did and she bought two. When they returned to the buggy, Jubell said, "Miss Peggy, why you need all that?"

 

"Jubell, in the aftermath of the war there are a lot of bad feelings, and anyone can find themselves in big trouble. I can handle these weapons well, and they may keep me or my loved ones alive."

 

Peggy ate a quiet dinner and then retired to the study for coffee after the meal. She went to the desk and looked over the stacks of mail. Most of it was business and had been opened by the business manager in Jack's absence. There was a pile of personal letters tied in string. She recognized the writing, it was her own. There was a folded note stuck beneath the string in the back. She pulled this out and read:

 

My dearest Grandson,

 

I have not forwarded these to you, because a sailor and future Captain cannot be allowed to think of anything before his ship.

I hope you will forgive me for isolating you from your family. So many things have changed and you would have been unable to alter the events, even had you known.

Please forgive an old man for loving his Grandson and his business.

Grandpa

 

Well, that explained why Jack had not known any news from home. She untied the stack and sorted the letters. She could remember every word she had written in each letter. She removed the three most recent letters, written just before the war. She had begun to become a woman and not fit Jack's image of 'Peggy'. After righting the letters she set them aside to give to Shadow. She then retired for the evening. Her night was long and restless with terrible dreams of Jack really falling in love with the 'Peggy ' of his dreams. She got up before dawn and dressed. Jubell brought her breakfast tray to her in the study where she was working on the business records. It had been mostly for something to do but, she found it interesting when she started to understand the figures. Jack was a very wealthy man, she found out when she came across a copy of his grandfather's will. Not only had the Navy paid well for the use of ten ships and crews but trading with Europe for war supplies had yielded fantastic profits. She lost all track of time. "Just can't keep your nose out of his business." Shadow startled her as he entered the study. "This is really quite interesting. I had no idea Benford Shipping was so large and successful. I also didn't know that Jack's Grandfather knew so much about his son-in-law. His will made it quite clear. Did you know you and Samuel are mentioned?" "No I didn't. It was nice of him. He was that kind of man, Jack managed to inherit that from him. How about joining me for lunch in the kitchen, Furgison refuses to allow me in the dinning room, and then a bit of shopping?" "I accept your most gracious offer. Don't you want to know what Mr. Benford left you?" she asked. "Some nice token, I'm sure." Shadow replied leading Peggy to the kitchen. "A very nice token. A token 10% of the company." She said quietly and waited for his reaction. Shadow took two more steps then stopped and turned around. "I thought I heard you say he left me 10% of the company. What did you really say?" "That is what I said. Samuel was left 5%. Miss Nancy has 25% to be divided between her children and the remaining 60% is Jacks along with this house, the farm in Morganza, and all other assets." Peggy smiled, "You are a wealthy man, Shadow, and Jack is filthy rich." "What in the Hell am I going to do with it? I don't want to be rich. Money only causes problems. I didn't even really want to be the Captain." As they sat down to the table in the kitchen, the staff a bit uncomfortable having the mistress of the house so close, Peggy had an idea. "Shadow if Jack comes to me and not 'his Peggy' I think I can help you." She refused to answer any questions other than to say that he should act surprised if anyone told him of his wealth. After lunch, they went shopping for presents for everyone at Ashbrooke. Peggy spent another restless night. The next day her new wardrobe arrived. She was excited. She bathed and dressed in her new finery. She pulled her hair out of the braid and let it cascade down her back. The new clothes and radically different hair made her look, as she had hoped, like another person. She went to the parlor, on the way asking a shocked Furgison to have Shadow come at once, but, not to mention her change. A few minutes later Shadow entered the parlor looking for her. He saw a woman sitting in a chair but Peggy wasn't in the room. "Excuse me, Miss, are you waiting to see Mrs. Miles?" In her finest finishing school voice Peggy replied, "As a matter of fact, sir, I was looking for a Mr. Miles, Mr. Billy Miles." Still no recognition, "I do hope you will not be shocked by his appearance, Ma'am. I am Mr. Billy Miles, How may I help you." In her regular voice, "Shadow, I can't take it. You didn't even suspect did you?" "Damn! How did you make such a change? You look so different and seemed cold as ice looking at me. Damn." "That wasn't me, Shadow," she shifted back, "It was me, Peggy, soon to be reunited with my love after ten long years. I am so looking forward to our coming marriage." Shadow switched to Jack's voice and mannerisms, "Peggy, I too have waited long for our reunion. How I have missed your glowing raven hair, shining black eyes, your totally empty brain." "Your flattery sir, is enough to spin a girls head. Just to see your handsome face and haunting green eyes is enough to turn my stomach." Peggy and Shadow laughed at the exchange of words. "I warned the Capt'n that you had him out gunned and could maneuver circles around him. This is going to be very interesting to watch." "The plan calls for more than watching. Shadow since I will be arriving with you. The story will be that I came to Baltimore by train and found you here. You, of course, have insisted that I accompany you home. Aggie will have already left to visit her family, of course. It wouldn't do to have the two meet." "So only Jubell, Tommy, myself and Jack are to know about Aggie." Shadow let a sly smile cross his face. "What role am I to play?" Peggy leaned closer to him so the others couldn't listen. "I figure I'll terrify Tommy in about three minutes, so he will be singing Aggie's virtues. "You, my friend, are to point out how a cold bitch like Peggy would be much better for a man in his position. You may feel free to point out that Peggy would not object to discrete mistresses, sleeping alone and of course trying to spend his money as fast as he makes it. She would be the perfect window dressing for the shipping tycoon." "The Hell you say. You aren't really going to be like that?" Shadow couldn't believe how cold she seemed. "I am only going to be exactly how I should be in his eyes, according to things he has said about me and written to me. I have made a study of his unmailed letters, and any points I was not clear on I asked him. I shall be exactly what he expects, plus what his idea of my life would have made me. I am going to be Southern Belle, all the way. In other words, his dream." "Nightmare you mean," he said. "One can only hope." she sighed. At the end of the week they set sail for Ashbrooke Manor. Not knowing what they would find there. So many plantations had been leveled during the war. Few were even standing, much less able to function on any level. With military rule and taxes what remained of the south was quickly being destroyed.